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SE Asia’s giant undergoes surgery to unclog traffic-congested arteries 

Jan 13. 2019
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By The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

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President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has spoken. “We cannot continue like this,” the former Jakarta governor told a meeting on Greater Jakarta traffic earlier this week.

Jakarta is second only to Bangkok in most rankings of Southeast Asia’s congested streets.

Indonesia’s leader promptly ordered Vice President Jusuf Kalla, known to be a decisive “can-do” leader, to clear clogged traffic in the sprawling metropolis by integrating all modes of public transportation. To break the traffic gridlock in a capital of 30 million, Jokowi also ordered promotion of public transportation in place of private cars, the growth of which far eclipses that of Jakarta’s streets.

However, the president knows that he must overcome a huge obstacle to integrating public transport: There are too many stakeholders defending different interests and policies. This year, two new systems – the MRT and the light rapid transit (LRT) – will begin serving the public.

Indeed, Jakarta has never crafted an overarching masterplan on public transit. Operators of TransJakarta buses, commuter trains, the MRT and LRT each have their own plans – which do not necessarily connect with each other. Coordination between the Jakarta administration and Greater Jakarta satellites like Bekasi and Tangerang is absent.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan was quick to sign on for a leading role in the giant task. Jakarta, he said, would take control of 13 national roads in the bid to reduce traffic across the capital. 

Jokowi’s command sums up the will of policymakers under him. That the head of government has ordered all to “be brave” in tackling Jakarta’s traffic madness should mark an auspicious beginning of a new era.

Last month, Jakarta Transportation Agency head Sigit Widjatmiko promised that 2019 would be “transformational”. “We call it the year of integration,” he said.

Another authority, the Greater Jakarta Transportation Agency (BPTJ), also announced this year would be special. People in the metropolitan city and its surroundings will witness “a giant leap” with the start of the MRT, the LRT and the electronic road-toll system. BPTJ head Bambang Prihartono said the MRT would serve as the backbone of Jakarta transportation, with systems like the popular commuter train and Transjakarta buses playing supporting roles.

Bambang also has integration in mind. He said modes of transportation older than the MRT and LRT would need to be re-routed to avoid overlapping with the new services. The smaller modes should serve as first- and last-mile public transportation providers, connecting residential areas with the stations.

The BPTJ wants all modes of public transportation to adopt the same e-money ticketing system, to make integration a reality.

TransJakarta, a public transportation system city-dwellers were slow to accept, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. In 2004, when then-governor Sutiyoso introduced the busway, many doubted people would leave their cars at home to take TransJakarta buses. Even after 15 years, and with hundreds more buses having strengthened the fleet, TransJakarta has yet to convince all doubters, but it is now hard to imagine the capital without the buses.

Of course, TransJakarta cannot accomplish the mammoth task alone, but the integration of all public transportation hopefully will clear congestion and cut travel times in Indonesia’s notoriously clogged capital.  

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